Thursday, January 28, 2010

organic history

THERE IS A GARDEN IN THE MIND, Alan Chadwick and the Origins of the Organic Movement in California, by Paul A. Lee (Greenwood Press, San Francisco, California, 2009) have a look at the website - - to get a taste...

Burping cow is just part of the problem - & other epiphanies

Financial Times tends to emphasize market-based solutions...

Special Report: Business and Food Sustainability
Financial Times 2010 01 26

How to feed people and save the planet - efforts to secure supplies in the face of increased population, climate change and rising prices

Ethics: ‘Islands of best practice in sea of poor to middling ones’

Food science: Rewards of precision farming - a promising alternative to genetic modification

Food safety: Standards set to protect reputations

Traceability in global food supply chains has come a long way, writes Ross Tieman

Multinationals: Self-interest drives new attitudes to agriculture

Case study: Congo coffee on shelves near you soon

Entrepreneurs: The importance of a local connection

Obesity: Corporate sector backtracks on fat facts

Technology: Some rubber tubing and a foot pump - the advantages of small-scale irrigation systems

Case study: Exploring a market-based approach to malnutrition - efforts to address ‘hidden hunger’

Food waste: Plenty of guilt and a very heavy footprint

Supply chains: Plan for the future from fork to farm

Agricultural pollution: Inputs that place huge pressure on the land

Livestock: Burping cow is just part of the problem

ID tags: A fresh perspective on tracking supermarket produce

Mideast supplies: Slowdown in Gulf states’ dash for farmland

situational and sustainable values

To quote a bishop, "I have no thoughts or opinions about the politics reflected in this piece, but I think the distinction between situational and sustainable values is an important one for us as the Church steers through challenging times."

Adults Only, Please
by Thomas L. Friedman
2010 01 26 NYTimes

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Another audio opportunity

Let me also recommend the BBC 4 Food Programme. The report from the City Food Lecture on feeding nine billion is well worth the half hour of listening. Some challenging questions about using technology, lifestyle (diet) issues and cheap food.

Not always California-centric

And I'm not always coastal, but open to food system news from other parts of the country.

A friend gave me a gently used Ipod for Christmas, so I've spent some time surfing for free podcasts. So far I rather like Earth Eats from Indiana Public Radio. They seem to cover food news and fresh seasonal recipes in a demystifying way.

I'm somewhat puzzled by why they feature eggplant recipes in January, and by the way the announcer produces "offal" - but so far so good.

Check them out - and subscribe to their podcast - here:

and their tweets if you do that thing.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Some powerful speakers

Videos of the speakers at the Economics of Peace conference I attended in October are now posted and available to anyone. There's some powerful stuff here. The two that had the most material on food systems were Judy Wicks and Vandana Shiva.

Bleary eyes

are what I have from cleaning up the links on this blog! I've checked 'em all, retitled and re-urled some, ditched some, and regrouped them so that links on the same topic are together. On the long list they start with international and end with the consumer and personal stuff.

Why am I doing this? So that I won't be ashamed when I refer people in Tuesday's workshop to my blog! John Jeavons and I are doing a workshop on small-scale sustainable agriculture at CDSP's Epiphany West. He'll be talking generally about his bio-intensive method - and the reason why it can make a difference as we face increasing hunger around the globe. I'm going to cover some material on church community gardens - and related things congregations may do.

Now to finish up the handouts so my free Sunday this month, tomorrow, will have some play time.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Speaking of beyond consumption

"The opposite of consumption isn't thrift, it's generosity."

Raj Patel


Today I picked up an AP story on-line about how New York City, among other places, is finally doing something about sodium in food (as they did about trans fats, for example). There will be standards. No more than 1200 mgs of Na in a burger.


That's half the RDA, and just about all the sodium you get if you are on a low sodium diet. Sorry, no more food for you today.

This reminded me that out of perverse curiosity or boredom or some intersection of the two I recently followed an ad on a web site to see just what Taco Bell's new healthy [sic] menu consisted of. There was one vegetarian appearing dish, a bean burrito - and this with between 1200 and 1300 mgs of sodium.

Why don't fast food eaters have more strokes?

Food Inc.

Friday evening I downloaded Food Inc. from Netflix because I realized I couldn't keep saying I didn't need to see it, but needed instead to have something to say about it to folks who ask.

My overall reaction? It's probably the best made movie of this sort I have seen,
but I am tired of focusing on the negative.

One note I wrote myself:
Is the foodie critique a luxury? not just foodie choices, but the time spent on critiquing the system?

I also wondered about the focus on animal foods. One more shot of a slaughterhouse or CAFO would be two or three too many.

My favorite part of the movie was actually getting to see Polyface Farms - even a shot of a Polyface kitty! It was just a second, and it just had one face, but it reminded me of all the photos of cats I took on the tour of organic farms in Iowa in the fall of 2008. I still look at them from time to time.

As long as I'm into quoting this evening, a couple of things from Joel Saladin of Polyface:

>>How far are you from the consequences of your decisions? [about what you eat]

>>We've been successful at hitting the bull's eye of the wrong target.

(How many time could you use that line?)

I found the CEO of Stonyfield a little shifty, personally - must have been the little smirk - and I felt the movie not strong enough in its critique of industrial organic. I mean, if you are going to do the foodie critique, do it.

Finally, the movie as a whole left me with a renewed commitment to advocate for more than consumer solutions - but not because the movie did. It isn't just about what you buy when you go to the store and how you vote with your dollars. It's about becoming producers ourselves, and about informed work on issues.

Bringing It to the Table

Sometimes cleaning up your desk means you need to review a book and then put it back on the shelf.

A couple of months ago I bought a copy of Bringing It To the Table: On Farming and Food by Wendell Berry. I have to admit never quite finishing a book by Berry, but I thought I would give this compilation of short pieces on farming, farmers and food a try, and I almost made it.

The third section on food consists primarily on excerpts from Berry's fiction, which I don't find compelling or entertaining, and I couldn't quite get through all the descriptions of farm house meals of old. But the 1989 essay on "The Pleasures of Eating", which contains the famous line "eating is an agricultural act" redeems the section.

The section on farmers contains a variety of pieces which ought to be required reading for those who think sustainability and permaculture are new things. In different ways, the farmers visited and described connect the dots of frugality, sustainability and spirituality. These pieces written over a thirty year period also make the case for human scale farming. It's hard to choose just one exemplary quotation, but I think my favorite is from the earliest essay, "Elmer Lapp's Place" (1979)
"His aim, it seems, is not that the place should be put to the fullest use, but that it should have the most abundant life."

The first third of the book "Farming" has bits of wisdom along the way. One thread running through it is the understanding that smaller, diversified farms tend to create stronger communities, and that neighborliness is as important a value in farming as ecological health. Related to that "The industrial economy grows and thrives by lengthening and complicating the connection between producer and consumer." I thought about these notions when looking at the goals of our county Food System Alliance at this afternoon's meeting, and seeing the pleas to re-connect growers and eaters.

Reading Berry I was also prodded to think about industrial agriculture as an extractive industry - more like mining or clear cutting than farming.

My one beef with Berry's comments is that he sometimes uses "science" in a pejorative way, when what I think he means is reductionism or the inappropriate uses of technology. But he would not be the first, and probably will not be the last, romantic to do this.

So, one more quotation, on the tensions between environmentalism and agriculture:
"The question we must deal with is not whether the domestic and the wild are separate or can be separated; is is how, in the human economy, their indissoluble and necessary connection can be properly maintained."

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Eating my way through Advent and Christmas

Well, now that the secular season of parties and the religious season of Christmas are almost over, it may be time to chronicle my efforts and thoughts.

They began the first Saturday in Advent, taking in the Holy Trinity Faire. It wasn't so much what I ate and saw there, but a conversation I had with some friends. I said I was planning to take in the Slow Food holiday party because I could actually afford it. Only $15 and bringing a dessert or a bottle of wine. "Why," they asked, "if you are bringing something, does it cost $15?"

The next day I was at St. John's, and the word persimmon somehow crossed my lips. An instant offer of some fuyus was forthcoming. Sometimes if feels like persimmons are the zucchinis of December. It was wonderful to meet all of Susan's animals at their place in Upper Lake, and I came away with some eggs and lots of persimmons. The yolks' color matched the

I searched the web for ideas, and made a persimmon cake (the recipe was purported to be an old Sunset one, which sounded good) for my contribution to the Slow Food event.

The cake was great, satisfying the needs of those of us who like fruitcake without being fruitcake.

But the event had all the friendliness of certain suburban congregations' coffee hours. I went prepared to assert myself, but not for a crowded stand up event. Later, as I began to meet people, and actually found some sitting at a table to join and get convivial (key word for Slow Food) with, one person asked why the members of Slow Food Russian River always seemed to be in such a hurry. I learned some things from my conversations about the history of this chapter, pie, and rare fruit growing - and think I might actually attend again if there were another low or no cost event.

The counterpoint to this was getting together with John Jeavons on Advent III to plan what we are doing at Epiphany West. An off hand remark John made stuck with me whenever I was offered treats of the season, or stepped into my kitchen to cook something up: many in the world can't afford oil or sugar.

My favorite event of the season is the Landpaths party. Food is a component there, but not everything. People bring their sandwich or whatever, and sweets or snacks that can be eaten out of hand to share. (I baked some cranberry-pumpkin muffins.) But it's set in the context of hiking, a campfire, conversation, music, wreath making, and other crafts. I'm in it for the wreathmaking. There were a number of families there this year who are involved at Bayer Farm, the mini-park and community garden which Landpaths does in Roseland. Several people from the Food System Alliance were there, too. It felt like my people.

I did not get carried away with baking this year. I did try a recipe for lavender cranberry bread - a not sweet loaf, rather like the artisanal yeast-risen walnut breads, only different - and then tinkered with the recipe and made it again to give away. And I did make some date nut bread, two small batches of cookies, and some fruitcake gems. And I bought too much cheese. Most of it will be gone by Epiphany, when I must once again ask the question - will this be the year I curb my gluttony and lose the stop smoking weight, and the menopause weight, and, and...

For my Christmas dinner, actually on the 27th, I prepared a meal with the needs of some who don't eat sugar (and one no sugar or flour) in mind. For someone who thinks baking is the primary cooking mode, this is not easy. We had herring and cheese and crackers plus an edamame dip and raw veg first. For the main course, one of those variations on scalloped potatoes or Jansson's Temptation - this one potato, celery root, onion, smoked salmon and cream. The recipe is on the BBC good food site. A salad of beets and oranges on greens from my garden and some limpa in the form of rolls alongside. Cookies and gems, fresh pineapple and persimmons, and walnuts to crack for dessert.

I've still got a number of winter squash left, so for New Year's Eve I tried to tie it altogether by copying a pizza we'd had at the Slow Food event - with melty cheese, roasted squash cubes, caramelized onions, and sage. It was good, but needs work.

And a few persimmons. My last Christmas cooking adventure will be turning them into some chutney to brighten a gloomy day. Though they are lengthening a bit - the days, not the persimmons - there is still a lot of winter left.

With a Christmas gift of a credit for books, I got, among other things, Nigella Christmas. Drooling over a recipe for "pumpkin and goat's cheese lasagne" I read this intro, found my self in it, and thought it worth quoting here.
"One of the questions I am asked most often is how do I come up with recipes? The answer is simple: greed. When I'm not eating, I am thinking about what I might want to eat..."